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‘Direct or indirect primary, Obaseki’s second term not negotiable’

By Michael Egbejule, Benin City
26 March 2020   |   4:15 am
Those persons in the EPM working round the clock to stop Governor Obaseki’s re-election will fail. Members of EPM said they would stop Obaseki’s re-election bid. I can tell you that Governor Obaseki’s re-election bid is not negotiable, with or without the support of Oshiomhole.

Mr. Charles Idahosa is a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State and staunch supporter of Governor Godwin Obaseki. He was also a former Political Adviser to Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview with MICHAEL EGBEJULE, Idahosa spoke on the crisis rocking the party in the state and why Governor Obaseki should be re-elected.

Is APC in Edo still intact with the emergence of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM)?
Those persons in the EPM working round the clock to stop Governor Obaseki’s re-election will fail. Members of EPM said they would stop Obaseki’s re-election bid. I can tell you that Governor Obaseki’s re-election bid is not negotiable, with or without the support of Oshiomhole. The so-called Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) is not on ground anymore in Edo State. They have plans to destabilise the peace and progress recorded by Obaseki’s administration. But Obaseki has won the heart of the people through infrastructural projects that cut across the state.

The battle for Edo is going to be won and lost at the primary election. Do you agree?
We all know that the four APC governorship aspirants in the state fanning the embers of discord in the party are loyalists of APC’s national chairman. Obaseki is not bothered because the four aspirants vying for the governorship of the state were the same people Obaseki defeated three and a half years ago. The four of them: Dr. Pius Odubu, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Maj. Gen. Charles Airhiavbere, and Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi – were defeated in the past and cannot be a threat to Obaseki now. As for me, Obaseki’s second term is not negotiable. Whether direct or indirect primary, we are waiting for them and we will defeat them.

But the four aspirants are not relenting in their efforts to unseat the state governor. What is your strategy against them?
Have you ever heard from any of the four aspirants boasting that they will defeat Obaseki? The answer is no, because none of them can defeat him. What we have heard them say is that Oshiomhole will not give Obaseki nomination form. Oshiomhole will bring APC people from Abuja to come and conduct the primary election. Oshiomhole is the one that will submit names of APC candidate for the governorship election. That’s all they say. Nobody from the four aspirants has ever made bold to say. ‘we have the capacity to defeat Governor Obaseki.’

It seems EPM members have hijacked the party in the state. How true is this?
Sometimes ago these EPM people went to a small hotel in the state capital to hold meetings. If they are on ground as they claim, why book and use small hotels in Ikpoba Hill area for their political events? Don’t they know APC’s state secretariat? Why don’t they hold their meetings or press conference in any of the APC’s secretariats in the state? As far as I am concerned, nobody among the four aspirants has the capacity to defeat Obaseki.

With the National Reconciliation Committee set up and headed by Chief Bisi Akande, do you see any end to the crisis?
There is nothing like reconciliation; we have accepted the reconciliation committee, but there is nothing to reconcile, because Oshiomhole is the problem of APC in the 36 states. We are waiting for the National Reconciliation Committee and ready to listen to the team. I will advise that the easiest way to solve the job of the committee is for Oshiomhole to resign or let them fire him. That will bring peace in the 36 states of the federation in the interest of the party. We should not expect anything good from an Oshiomhole-led national chairmanship of APC. You can see the trouble Oshiomhole has caused APC nationwide. People are protesting in APC secretariat in Abuja, and the next thing they say it is Obaseki. Everything that is not in their favour is Obaseki.

A former Edo deputy governor and top contender in the Edo 2020 governorship race has declared that unless Obaseki respected the party and its leadership, he will be in for a rough ride. What’s your take?
What respect is he talking about? Dr. Pius Odubu is only trying to give a dog a bad name to hang it. Odubu has never been a supporter of Obaseki. It is a known fact to all of us. Obaseki was the head of the state’s economic team when Odubu was deputy governor. I also was in that government as political adviser to Oshiomhole. So, I’m not surprised at Odubu’s statement, because it is not news to us. Odubu has always had the ambition to be governor of Edo state. Many of the people making noise about Edo politics do not know how APC was formed.

Odubu came and said he wanted to be governor. Sadly, through fault of his, which I have always told him and which he has started again because he doesn’t know who Oshiomhole is. Whether he likes it or not, and whether he likes my face or not, he would remember how many times I warned him as deputy governor that the way he was going, the Oshiomhole I knew would never give him (Odubu) the APC governorship ticket. Odubu didn’t believe me. As bad as it was then, Odubu served as deputy governor to Oshiomhole for eight years. Oshiomhole never handed over power to him for one day or two. Odubu was deputy governor without any power. Listening to him condemning Obaseki doesn’t make any sense. Odubu is aware that Oshiomhole told everybody who cared to listen in 2016 that he preferred Obaseki, who came from nowhere, against Odubu and the other aspirants. And we all supported Oshiomhole and Obaseki. Whatever he says about Obaseki is completely meaningless, because the person he should be directing his bitterness or anger at should be Oshiomhole.  

So, let’s not overrate Odubu. Odubu, who for the first time in his political career, knew what he suffered in the hands of Oshiomhole. Let Odubu come out and tell the world what happened to him in Edo North during the electioneering period. Let me help Odubu, if he has forgotten. I remember how thugs beat him and his supporters silly and riddled his vehicle with bullets. In fact, one of the police attached to him lost his eye during the attack. I laugh at him each time he talks about his loyalty to Oshiomhole. For me, blaming Obaseki is unfair and baseless.

Take a look at what just happened to him recently when he was announced as Niger Delta Development Commission’s (NDDC) board chairman. Oshiomhole messed him up at the end. I have never seen a situation where a man was cleared for a position of NDDC board chairman, but was never inaugurated. Oshiomhole made it look like it was Obaseki who didn’t support him for the NDDC board chairmanship. When Oshiomhole wants to use Bini to fight Bini, he would draw them close. I knew Oshiomhole would again disappoint Odubu, because Oshiomhole knew all about the fact that the job for Odubu would fail, as it wasn’t our turn. Only God knows why Oshiomhole treated Odubu like that.

Sadly, Odubu has still not learnt his lesson. I have never seen a man like that. I like Odubu because he is like a younger brother to me. I supported him when he was going to the House of Representatives in1999, having successfully tried two or three times to be Chairman of Orhionwmon Local Government Council and failed. We felt sympathy for him and we decided to help him. But why Oshiomhole has suddenly become his father, because that is what Odubu calls Oshiomhole, ‘my father’, beats me.  Odubu doesn’t know Oshiomhole is fooling him.

If Oshiomhole is honest and bold enough, let him declare his support for anyone and say who he is giving APC’s ticket among the four aspirants working for him, just like he did in the case of Obaseki in 2016, when he chose Obaseki as the party’s flagbearer against the other aspirants. And see if their fake union or unity among the four aspirants will not scatter in a minute.

One of the four aspirants now pledging loyalty to Oshiomhole left APC and went to pick the governorship ticket from PDP. He comes back at his own time to join APC just to pick the guber ticket, because he thinks we do not have our own candidate in our party. I can assure you that they are only fooling themselves.

There are rumours that Obaseki had a hand in Odubu and others losing out in their plum jobs and appointment. How true is this?  
Obaseki has nothing to do with federal appointments. What happened to Odubu and former Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Samson Osagie, is unfortunate. I was happy for them over their appointments but they are just being misled. Osagie is from my local government area (Uhunwmonde). Instead of hatred, what I have for them is pity. The federal appointment of Osagie has nothing to do with Oshiomhole, but he sacrificed it for nothing. And Odubu was completely fooled, too. They want to make it look like a Bini thing, where the governor, a Bini man, dislikes the progress of another Bini man, but it is not true. They are the architects of their own misfortune. We do not fight each other, neither do we hate ourselves as Bini.

Early in 2019, Odubu called me to thank me for raising concerns about why his pension and other allowances were not paid. There are many times I had arguments why they are treating Odubu the way they did. That goes to show the love I have for, not only Odubu, but for all who encounter me because I have always shown genuine interest in any course I have reasons to fight. I was the first politician to confront Obaseki on issues about his governance style, because I was not happy with him in the past. If you recall, I called a press conference to say I would leave APC because I didn’t understand the way the party was being run. But Governor Obaseki came to me and he held meetings with our Uhunwmonde Local Government people. We heard from Obaseki and I said to my people that the governor was a new sheriff in town. We concluded that the governor was not ready to do things the old way, which to me was not enough to fight, and quarrel with him about.

There are fears that APC’s primary would be characterised by violence and bloodshed if not handled with care. Do you share this thought?
It will not be bloody. It will only be a continuation of what Oshiomhole had been doing. For us in Edo State, we know that after the primary, APC will struggle to win elections. Through the backdoor, Oshiomhole would give it away to the opposition like in the case of Bayelsa election. We are aware of their plans. There is nothing to fear. No bloody primary in Edo, I can assure you. Those fighting Obaseki, do they have a secretariat in this state? You saw Oshiomhole in the news a few days ago alleging that Governor Obaseki and the state’s Police Commissioner were the ones who sent thugs to attack him at the airport in Benin City.  

What he has told his followers in EPM to do is to pretend that they would form parallel lines during the primaries. He has told them too that he has his own Edo State APC chairman. So for them, it would be just write the result. That means that, we supporters of Obaseki would not see APC’s national officers during the primaries. We are also aware that they are not coming to conduct primary, just like the 14 lawmakers-elect are hiding in Abuja. We are aware that Oshiomhole’s plan is to write the result of the primary that would never hold in Edo. He (Oshiomhole) would sign and send the one (result) personally signed by him to INEC.  

We have that information ahead of the primary. The plan is that PDP would just be hanging around the corner, because they know that we would then start challenging the outcome of the primary in court. I can assure you that Oshiomhole won’t have the opportunity to do that. We are ready for a proper primary. I hope that they have learnt their lesson following what happened in Bayelsa, Rivers and Zamfara States.

Do you subscribe to the statement credited to Governor Obaseki that Oshiomhole must inform the state government before coming to Edo State?
Of course, I support the governor. Oshiomhole cannot come into Benin City like an unknown person. It is called protocol. In 1999, I was the head of Protocol and Public Affairs unit in Government House, Benin City. Informing Governor Obaseki before coming to Benin City, either by telephone call or mail doesn’t demean Oshiomhole. The governor is only trying to protect him so that anything bad doesn’t happens to him while in the state. That is exactly the point the governor made by the statement. Let me emphasise this: It is important to let the public know that it was Governor Obaseki that sent in the security agents that protected him at the Benin Airport when youths were booing him. Oshiomhole didn’t come with security from wherever he came from, whether Lagos or Abuja. Because should anything happen to him (Oshiomhole), the governor would not be happy. He only asked Oshiomhole to inform him as the governor and Chief Security Officer of the state, so he could provide him adequate security.